Kim Jong-un could have missed key North Korean celebration on 15 April, marking the birthday of the country's founder, Kim Il Sung, only if he had suffered a significant impairment, former diplomat, Thae Yong-ho claimed in an interview with CNN. Thae Yong-ho, who is now a South Korean lawmaker, noted that Kim Jong-un's absence during the celebration is "really abnormal".
"I'm not quite sure whether he really had some surgery or whatever, but one thing is clear... he cannot stand up by himself or walk properly", the former diplomat said.
Thae Yong-ho based his suggestion on a general understanding of North Korean politics, explaining that only a few people close to the North Korean leader know the truth about his condition. In light of this the diplomat urged people to take all the reports about Kim Jong-un's condition based on anonymous sources with a pinch of salt, reminding that many high-level ministers were kept in the dark for days, when his predecessor, Kim Jong Il, died.
"The only people who can confirm his real condition might be Kim Jong-un's wife or his sister, or his close aides [...]Those rumours of where he is now, (or) whether he has had any surgery, I don't think that is really based on the facts", he said.
The North Korean leader has not been seen in public since 11 April and following his absence during celebrations on 15 April rumours began to spread that he might be unwell. Conflicting media reports, based on anonymous sources, suggested that Kim Jong-un was either "in grave danger after surgery" or had undergone a cardiovascular procedure, but was recovering from it and receiving treatment.
At the same time, South Korean foreign policy adviser, Moon Chung-in, rebuked these reports, insisting that Kim Jong-un was "alive and well", without diving into details about what is known about his condition. US President Donald Trump earlier said he had "a very good idea" about the status of Kim Jong-un, but said he couldn't "talk about it right now".